When I woke up yesterday morning, there were ten piles of clothing outside my door. When I returned home that night, there were eleven. There are only two explanations. The first is that my brother has developed an obsessive stacking habit, and the second is that my mom and I have started digging through drawers. Either way, one thing is clear: Packing has begun.
I’ve never been good at packing, even for short trips away from home. When I was ten, I forgot to pack flip-flops before I went to camp. I was so disgusted by the floor of the dorm shower that I ended up more or less going without showering for the majority of the week. I was ten, though. I cannot stress that point enough. My showering habits have improved since then. Let me leave no ambiguity about that.
I wish I could say that was an isolated incident, but that’s not the case. Lord knows I’ve forgotten to pack my electric razor before any number of vacations, and nothing beats coming home from a week in Mexico with what looks like three days of facial hair growth. Even when I plan out the number of clothes to bring — shirts, socks, and what have you — I usually end up with too many of one and too few of another.
This is different, though. I’m not going on vacation or going away to camp. I’m moving, and this will be the first time I’ve done so since I’ve had stuff to move with me.
I think part of the struggle for me is the finality of it all. When I’m packing for a vacation, I’m not trying to assemble the essential material components of my life into a few boxes. I’m just making sure I’ll be clothed and entertained for a week. With this, though, it seems more definitive. It’s like I’m subconsciously admitting to myself which elements of my life aren’t worth taking with me.
Case in point: I’ve played the cello for eight years. I’m not great, mostly for lack of practice as of late, but I can read the notes and turn them into some kind of sound resembling music. But the cello won’t be coming to Evanston with me.
Granted, it really wouldn’t make sense for me to bring my cello. It’s kind of unwieldy to keep in a dorm, and it seems like it’s been a pretty ancillary part of my life in recent years. I haven’t played in an orchestra since middle school, and I’m not really looking to start up again. I like playing and listening to music, but my taste has shifted pretty far from the stuff I listened to when I first started playing. While I’d still love to play Rachmaninoff or Berlioz, I’d also love to be able to keep other things in my closet besides clothing and a cello.
Now, I’m fine leaving some of my things behind. My box of Star Wars action figures probably wouldn’t get much use in college, nor would my boxes of old comic books. I’m okay with the thought that I’m not a comic book collector anymore. Similarly, I’ll probably be able to live without a three-and-a-quarter-inch Darth Vader standing over the desk in my dorm.
Interestingly enough, I’ve already decided that my Rock Band drum set will be traveling with me. I guess there’s some irony to be found in the fact that I’ve chosen a video game controller shaped like a musical instrument over an actual musical instrument. I’m also bringing the poster hanging over my bed. Beyond that, I’m still not sure. As hard as it is to leave something behind, it seems harder to bring something with. Maybe I’m just scared of committing to things.
This is what packing does to me — it brings out the self-reflection I’ve been trying to steer clear of over the past few months. I’m not going to be a cellist. I liked playing, and I’ll probably still play over the summer, but it’s never going to be anything more than a hobby. I always knew that, and I never had a problem with it until now. I made a lot of great friends through the cello. It seemed to give me some sort of intellectual legitimacy, and it always managed to impress my grandma’s friends. (Yes, it also looked good on a college application.)
Ultimately, it’s probably less of a big deal than I’m making it sound. I used to play the cello year-round, and now I’ll only play it in the summer. For the first time, though, I’m getting the feeling that something is coming to an end. I’m sure it’s a feeling I’ll have experienced a thousand times over by this time next week.
“Next week.” God. Hard to believe.